The Things We Carry

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Watching the evening news last night, I was struck by one thing in particular about the fires in California: if they're lucky, evacuating residents have about 4 to 7 minutes to gather the things they'll take with them and leave their homes. 4 to 7 minutes. If you're lucky, you might get to return for 5 minutes, with an escort, when your neighborhood's still too dangerous to inhabit. It's mind-scrambling, to me anyway, to think about what I'd take. This happens with some regularity around the country, as floods, hurricanes, fires, and tornadoes pound, burn, and change the landscape. Really, it could happen to any of us. Have you had to leave your home in a hurry, without knowing when, or if, you'd return? Or if you'd even have a home to return to? If you haven't, it's an interesting exercise... Prescriptions and pets are essentials, but what else would you grab? My meds and my Winston would certainly make the cut, but if I had time for just one more thing, I'm really not sure what I'd choose. A treasured necklace? The teddy bear I've had my whole life? For me, it's more about sentimentality than material worth, but maybe that's because I own so little. What would you try to save?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

We survived Hurricane Camille in 1969 in Waveland, Mississippi. Preparing for a hurricane is an enormous task and must be carried out rather hurriedly. Does the storm's predicted size justify driving 50 miles inland? Or can we ride it out at the local shelter, or even at home? We compromised. We would not stay in our home so close to the water, but somehow we could not allow ourselves the melodrama of turning tail and heading north. That would surely be over-reacting. We decided to go to a friend's house six blocks away. Guided by weather reports, we taped our windows with huge X's of wide masking tape; moved furniture away from the windows and walls to the center of the room; rolled up carpets; packed jugs of drinking water, canned goods and a flashlight into a cardboard box. Choosing which personal belongings to take with such limited space was mind-boggling and emotional. We tried setting priorities. What can't be replaced? We decided on our photograph albums, vital family documents, and my treasured copy of David Copperfield. Our 5-year-old daughter, Kelly, usually talking non-stop, stood silently watching us, clutching her favorite doll. There is much more to this story of course, but thought you might find this interesting.

Sent by Muggs Hohs | 3:12 PM | 10-24-2007

I forgot to add that we lost everything, our home, our car all our belongings. All the photographs I took with us I left in the car and the car was "drowned" in salt water during the storm. Starting our lives over is another story indeed.

Sent by Muggs Hohs | 3:16 PM | 10-24-2007